Sri Lanka: Tamils defy army to remember dead

Students and staff at Jaffna University lit candles on May 21 to remember the Tamils who died in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan army carried out a genocidal onslaught in the final days of the island's decades-long civil war.

Tens of thousands of men, women and children were killed as Sri Lankan government forces bombarded them from land, sea and air.

The ceremony to commemorate these deaths took place when the university reopened after a four-day shut-down. The army had ordered the closure, including the evacuation of student hostels, to prevent any such memorial events, which would normally have been held on May 18, the anniversary of the end of the war.

General Udaya Perera, the US-trained commander of the Sri Lankan military in Jaffna, had issued an order forbidding any commemorations. Anonymous leaflets were also distributed on campus threatening death to any who took part.

On May 22, members of the Northern Provincial Council, elected by the people of the predominantly Tamil northern part of the island of Sri Lanka, also defied the military by holding a commemoration.

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